The Narrowboats on British canals are particularly distinctive not only for their shape but also for their colourful hand-painted Folk Art
Originally Narrowboats were built as working vessels to carry goods up and down the canals during the 18th, 19th and early C20th. Their distinctive shape was to enable them to move through the narrow waterways and pass safely via locks and bridges which often have a minimum width of 7 feet.
As with railways, canals had to cross deep valleys and aqueducts were built to facilitate this
They were originally powered by horses who walked along the towpath attached by ropes and harness to the boat
The horses were replaced during the early C20th as the boats were converted to steam and diesel. This modernisation enabled the boats to carry more weight and use less manpower
mile-stone along the canal towpath
By the mid C20th cargo carrying narrow boats had largely diminished, but today there are bands of enthusiasts dedicated to restoring both the boats and canals. Some boats are lived in as permanent homes, others are owned for recreation and leisure, and some can be rented for holidays or day trips along the waterways.
Around the mid C19th it became common practise to paint the boats all over in bright colours, mainly illustrated with bunches of roses and medieval castles. Objects used on board - jugs, bowls, lamps, flowerpots for example also received the same treatment.
No one knows exactly where 'The Castle and Rose Movement' originated. Historians have identified similarities to folk art seen in Germany, Holland, Turkey, Asia, and also to the elaborately painted caravans in the gypsy culture, but no links are known to exist